It was supposed to be a rare meeting of two of Portland's most widely-respected MCs. Instead, it turned into yet another example of what many in the local hip-hop scene believe is an ongoing, targeted assault on rap shows by the Portland Police Bureau.
Last night, celebrated battle-rapper Illmaculate—the focus of a 2009 Willamette Week cover story—was scheduled to headline the Blue Monk along with Luck-One and Mikey Vegaz. Before he could go on, however, the venue on Southeast Belmont was swarmed by police officers,
Oregon Liquor Control Commission personnel [OLCC personnel were not present at the scene, as The Oregonian had previously reported.—Ed.] and members of the Gang Enforcement Team, who blocked off the street and limited entrance to the club. According to The Oregonian, the police were responding to a call from the Fire Marshall reporting the venue was overcrowded. After Luck-One's set, Illmaculate left the Blue Monk in protest, then tweeted the following:
I will not perform in this city as long as the blatant targeting of black culture and minorities congregating is acceptable common practice.— illmaculate (@illmaculate) March 2, 2014
This isn't the first time Illmaculate—real name Gregory Poe—has spoken out on the perceived persecution of Portland's hip-hop culture. Last year, in a piece published by Vice titled "Portland Has a Hip-Hop Problem," Poe commented on the effect police harassment has had on Portland's rap community.
“City ordained dress codes made to target minorities and the culture, pressure for extra permits or police presence to throw hip-hop events (that wouldn't be a prerequisite for any other genre of music), all make it unfeasible for promoters to bring in national acts or festivals, ultimately creating an atmosphere that minimizes the supply of hip-hop and of course, over time, the demand follows suit."
Similarly, Luck-One, who moved to New York in December, told Willamette Week that his relocation was partially due to the attitude of city authorities toward hip-hop: "I personally am not interested in trying to make any more of a name in a city so racist the police are sent out to every rap show to terrorize concertgoers in an attempt to re-create the city in the image of a cable TV satire."
Luck-One recently released a new mixtape, titled Curse of the Pharaoh, while Illmaculate's new album, Clay Pigeons, is scheduled for release on March 11.
Photographer Colin McLaughlin was at the Blue Monk, and captured the following images of Luck-One and Mikey Vegaz live onstage as well as police converging on the scene:
All photos by Colin McLaughlin.